- statlab posted this
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One of the worst things about being a lab tech is how easy it is to forget that the tube you are holding is a patient, especially when you have the liberty of working in a larger hospital where you don’t do your own collections (instead we have lovely lab assistants). We are trained for collections just in case we end up working in a rural hospital, and all of my best and worst stories come from collections training because it put it face to the sample and I remember them.
The first time I saw a CSF absolutely packed with cancerous cells from a little girl? That didn’t stick as well as, say, the lovely little miss whose blood I went to collect and was determined to be well enough to be discharged before christmas so she could make her three grandsons their favourite cookies (one was gingerbread, one was sugar cookies, and the last was those cute little church windows).
I sat and mulled over which story I should start with for a while. As I was scouring over tumblr, I noticed HIV is a major hot topic, and why not? That is an incredible virus we have on our hands. So I decided to start with the story of the HIV patient since it is quite benign.
On evenings one night, I received a microtainer with all of maybe 3 drops of blood in it for a hemoglobin and thought that was both strange and rather inconvenient. Later when I had the chance, I asked the lab assistant what the story was with the specimen, and she told me this:
A woman had brought her boyfriend in to emergency because he was not doing very well. “Not very well” turned out to mean he was a terminal AIDS patient who, at this point, wanted to just go home and die at home. He refused all testing except, after a lot of fighting, he let the doctor get a Hgb from him for reasons I am not too sure of. Reference, I suppose. He was so thoroughly wasted away that his upper arms were about as thick as my wrists (for the record, my wrist circumference is just over 5.5 inches) and his veins were as thin as threads. Several butterfly pokes later, she eventually decided the best she could do was a finger poke and if I could run the test on what she could get, then do it. If not, then that’s that, because the patient, although very nice, had already rolled over and called it quits against his disease.
I sat and Hmm’d for a little bit while considering this tube which was no longer troublesome but incredibly sad.